Top American Pairs Skaters Withdraw From Nations Due To COVID-19 | Sports News

By BARRY WILNER, AP Sports Writer

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) – Defending champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier withdrew from the U.S. figure skating championships on Wednesday night when he tested positive for COVID-19.

The pairs event kicks off Thursday in what is equivalent to the US Trials for the Beijing Olympic team. Knierim and Frazier, who became a duo last season when her husband Chris retired from skating could still be selected for the games. They would have to petition a selection committee and prove that they are suitable for selection.

The United States has two places in the peer group for China.

“We are aware of the process and I have been through it before,” said Knierim, who successfully applied to participate in the Four Continents event in 2017 after undergoing abdominal surgeries and being dismissed. “It’s not a great feeling to experience this for anyone, but we are grateful that our federation has this mechanism.”

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Knierim competed in the 2018 Winter Games with her husband, finishing 15th.

Frazier tested negative on Saturday when he started having symptoms. On Tuesday he was much sicker and tested positive on Wednesday. He will have to isolate himself during the weekend.

“I am devastated,” Frazier said. “Any athlete would agree with me, you always want the ability to go out and compete. It was one of the most emotional days of my career. There is nothing you can do, you have to be careful and smart, but the competitor in you wants to come out and compete and defend your title.

Frazier and Knierim are both vaccinated and have received boosters. Just like their coaches, former American champions Jenni Meno and Todd Sand.

“We think we’ve provided a safe bubble environment at home, kept the skaters so they don’t get mixed up,” said Sand. “We have been extremely careful.

Meno added: “It’s quite shocking and upsetting.”

The US figure skating process for determining who goes to the Olympics takes into account finishes in key competitions over the past year. Knierim and Frazier got the best numbers of all the American pairs, and it’s not particularly close.

Thus, their chances of having their petition approved seem relatively strong.

Still, being on the ice to show off what Meno called their “big skating” won’t happen in Nashville.

“Coming to these championships I felt the strongest and best prepared in my entire skating career,” said Knierim. “Brandon and I felt the strongest we’ve ever been. We felt more than ready to defend and very confident in our ability to skate well and have a good chance of securing an Olympic berth here. We really wanted to do what we came here to do and earn our place.

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